tv PBS News Hour PBS June 13, 2013 6:00pm-7:01pm PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> brown: the most destructive wildfire in colorado history has destroyed more than 360 homes and forced nearly 40,000 people to evacuate. good evening, i'm jeffrey brown. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. on the "newshour" tonight, we get the latest on the fire outside colorado springs which continues to burn out of control. >> brown: then, the supreme court rules unanimously an isolated human gene may not be patented. we examine what the decision means for the future of medical research. >> woodruff: our series on food security goes to india, where farmers are looking to the past for better ways to cope with changes in the climate down the road. >> brown: ray suarez gauges attitudes in the u.s. toward gays and lesbians on the heels of a new poll pointing to eaincrsing acceptance.
>> woodruff: spencer michels reports on how california is preparing for a major decision on same-sex marriage. >> brown: and we close with a conversation with author walter mosley about his famous fictional detective, "easy rawlins", and more. that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us.
>> and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... >> this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> we begin with a late development about the war in syria. the obama administration has determined the syrian government has used chemical weapon boston police that word came late this afternoon from deputy national
security adviser ben roads. the statement said the u.s. found no evidence that rebels have used chemical weapons. white house officials say in response to the findings president obama has decided to provide new military support to the rebels but they gave no details. the confirmed death toll in the syrian civil war has grown to nearly 93,000. the u.n. human rights office reported the new figure today. it said on average nearly 5,000 people are being killed every month and u.n. human right chief said the actual death toll may be much higher. >> civilians are bearing the brunt of widespread violent and often indiscriminate attacks, which are devastating whole swaths of major towns and cities
as well as outlying villages. >> the war has also driven more than 1 million syrians to take refuge in other countries and millions more are internally displaced. >> brown: and the other major story today, for the second year in a row, colorado is under assault by an out-of-scroll wildfire. today, there was word of widespread losses and warnings of perhaps even worse to come. >> we have, right now, 360 homes that are complete losses. >> brown: the news came from sheriff terry maketa in el paso county, colorado. the count of homes burned nearly quadrupled in 24 hours, and it could go higher still. >> we have 79 addresses we could not verify for numerous reasons, either accessibility, downed trees or the fire activity disrupted the assessment and we were unable to send cars in. >> brown: the fire sprang to life tuesday and spread across
94,000 acres, fueled by high winds and hot, dry conditions. some homes survived initially, only to be consumed when shifting winds blew flames back on them. today, the fire was burning out of control in the black forest, a heavily wooded area northeast of colorado springs. it's not far from the site of 2012's waldo canyon fire. that blaze-- one year ago this month-- engulfed 347 homes, killed two people and led to more than $350 million in insurance claims. so far, there've been no deaths or injuries in the black forest fire, but more than 38,000 people have been forced from their homes. >> i'm not sure if my house is lost. i just don't know. >> we took our photographs, things that we can't replace we brought with us, other than that we're saying fire insurance. there's a reason for it. >> it's terrible. we have our motor home here so
we're going to be leaving here pretty quick, but we don't like it. our other neighbors are here too. >> brown: as the fire spread today, mandatory evacuations spread to colorado springs, affecting some 1,000 homes. firefighters and authorities, including the national guard, say they're throwing everything they can at the inferno, including two c-130 cargo planes outfitted to drop slurry retardant from above. >> i almost want to say here we are again. we learned a lot last year from waldo. >> brown: but hundreds of homes are still in jeopardy, and sheriff maketa says their fate depends largely on how the wind blows. >> we are watching the weather conditions very closely and wind is probably our number one threat. it is what has been the gamechanger, it is what has changed the conditions. >> brown: colorado governor john hickenlooper has declared emergencies for the black forest blaze and another fire, sixty miles to the southwest, at the royal gorge bridge and park.
that one has burned 20 structures. still another fire, sparked by lightning monday, is burning in the state's rocky mountain national park. >> woodruff: still to come on the "newshour": the supreme court on who can patent a human gene; india's farmers turn to older seeds to protect the future of rice; america's changing attitudes toward homosexuality; california prepares for a big decision on gay marriage and a new novel by acclaimed author walter mosley. but first, the other news of the day. here's kwame holman. one person died and at least 73 people were injured in louisiana today, when a chemical plant exploded and caught fire. amateur video showed a thick plume of smoke rising from the facility, 20 miles southeast of baton rouge. the plant produces highly flammable gases, ethylene and propylene. there was no immediate word on what sparked the explosion. revelations of extensive surveillance by the national security agency are already doing damage.
the director of the federal bureau of investigation made that claim today, backed up by some in congress. it was the latest in the uproar over the n.s.a.'s data collection on phone calls and online communications. f.b.i. head robert mueller told a house hearing the leaks have done significant harm to national security, by putting terror suspects on alert. >> but i can tell you every time we have a leak like this, and you follow it up and you look at follow this very, very, very, very closely, and they're looking for ways around it. one of the great vulnerabilities the terrorists understand is their communications. and they are consistently looking for ways to have communications. and any tidbit of information comes out in terms of our capabilities and our programs and the like, they are immediately finding ways around it. >> holman: at the same time, mueller tried to calm privacy concerns, saying the collected telephone data can be used only within strict limits. >> the program is set up for a very limited purpose and a limited objective and that is to identify individuals in the united states a using telephone
for terrorist activities and to draw that network. >> holman: lawmakers also received more closed-door briefings. after one, the n.s.a.'s director, army general keith alexander, emerged to say he wants more details made public. >> it's important that you have that information but we don't want to risk is american lives in doing that. so what we're being is deliberate in this process so that we don't cause a terrorist attack by giving up too much information. >> holman: meanwhile, there were new calls to find and punish edward snowden, the intelligence contractor behind the leaks. maryland congressman dutch ruppersberger, the ranking democrat on the house intelligence committee, suggested snowden had ulterior motives for fleeing to hong kong. >> some saying he's a hero. he's broken the law.
we have law for whistle blowers and people who think there's an injustice being done, all he had to do was raise his hand. go to the authorities, under whistelblowers law, he is protected yet he chose to go to china, a country that is cyberattacking us everyday and taking billions of dollars of american business data. >> holman: snowden now is the subject of a justice department investigation. later, senator dianne feinstein, chairing the senate intelligence committee, said the n.s.a. now plans to release on monday, a list of attacks prevented by the surveillance programs. the senate today took its first major vote on amendments to the immigration bill. a republican proposal would have mandated the southern border be fully secure for six months before immigration reform measures kick in. it was voted down 57 to 43. there's fresh evidence that whites are losing majority- status in the u.s. the census bureau reported today that as of 2012, racial and ethnic minorities accounted for half the population under the age of five. the report said within five years, minorities will make up more than half the population
under 18. the trend is being fueled partly by immigration and higher birth rates among minorities. a former president of iran urged nn turkey, prime minister rec ultimatum to protesters. he demanded thousands of demonstrators end their occupation of a park in central istanbul. the sit-in was triggered by the government's plans to bulldoze the site. erdogan addressed leaders of his ruling political party in ankara. >> ( translated ): nobody can invade the park. therefore we have been patient till now but now patience is running out. this is my final warning. i am calling on mothers and fathers, please do something about your children. >> holman: five people have died in two weeks of clashes with police, and more than 5,600 have been injured. a former president of iran urged voters today not to boycott tomorrow's presidential election. akbar hashemi rafsanjani has been barred from running by conservative hard-liners. but he said reform-minded voters
still should go to the polls. meanwhile, there appeared to be a late surge of support for hassan rohani, a relatively moderate cleric. there were widespread claims of fraud in the 2009 election, but the regime cracked down on protests. the u.s. economy sent another positive signal on hiring today. first-time claims for unemployment benefits hit a five-year low in a signal the labor market is improving. the news helped wall street break a three-day losing streak. the dow jones industrial average gained more than 180 points to close at 15,176. the nasdaq rose nearly 45 points to close at 3,445. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to judy. >> brown: next, we resume our week-long look at food security and how climate change is affecting what we produce and how we eat. tonight, special correspondent sam eaton reports from india on how farmers are turning to ancient seeds to keep their crops viable in the future. it's part of our series: "food for 9 billion" in partnership with public radio
international's "the world," homelands productions, american public media's "marketplace" and the center for investigative reporting. >> reporter: on may 25, 2009 cyclone aila d in the ganges river delta on the coast of bangladesh and india. hundreds of thousands fled as the storm surge tore through earthen embankments and flooded rice fields with a wall of sea water. i traveled to eastern india with ecologist asish ghosh to see how the more than four million people living in this vast river delta are adapting to the salty soils the storm left behind. it's been four years since the cyclone hit. and farmer raj krishna das says growing enough food is still a struggle. >> so he even cannot have any
vegetable growing after aila because still there is salt in the soil. >> reporter: this is what climate change looks like for the densely populated river deltas of the world. they hold some of the most productive farmland on the planet. but it's also some of the most threatened. >> we have lost this amount of land on all sides of the island. >> reporter: today this delta coastline is retreating more than 600 feet a year and the salt is encroaching even farther inland. as farmers here adapt to rising sea levels and more powerful storms, they become a case study for how to produce food on a warming planet. but their solution may come as a surprise. the only thing that will grow in dass field today is a salt tolerant rice variety developed more than a century ago by small-scale farmers just like him. >> he thinks it is one of the biggest resources he has got. it is more precious than gold to him. >> reporter: ghosh's center for
environmental development and other nonprofits are trying to reintroduce these traditional seeds, which became rare after farmers began adopting modern, high-yielding varieties in the 1960s. so-called green revolution varieties that could double, or even triple their rice harvest given the right conditions and chemical inputs. but these same seeds were the first to fail after cyclone aila doused the soil with salt water. >> aila changed everything. he lost his home, he lost his possession. >> reporter: starting over with only a handful of the old, salt tolerant seeds, farmers like das have labored for three years to grow enough rice to ward off hunger. >> now he's confident he's got enough seeds to cover his land. so i think the story between the last three years has changed from a story of despair to a story of hope in future. >> reporter: but the struggle to survive after the cyclone also offers a stark warning about how much this genetic legacy in
agriculture has been lost. scientist debal deb has spent more than decade traveling across india trying to save what's left of these traditional seeds. >> this is sterile lema. >> reporter: farmers in india once cultivated more than a hundred thousand distinct varieties of rice alone. most of those are now lost forever. but here on this small nonprofit seed farm in eastern india, deb is propagating nearly a thousand of them and distributing the seeds free of charge, including the salt tolerant variety farmers are now growing in the ganges river delta. deb says many of these seeds are ideally suited to the extreme and unpredictable conditions of the future. >> my own collection i have more than 200 varieties, some of which can withstand drought and can yield something on zero irrigation. some varieties which can withstand 12 feet deep water for three months and the stem will elongate and still give some yield. and we have at least six varieties of salt tolerant rice
which can withstand sea water intrusion. these are the unique properties which genetic engineers have not yet imagined. >> reporter: despite the billions of dollars spent by governments and agribusiness on plant breeding programs and genetic engineering, deb says these programs have yet to create new seeds that can rival the traditional varieties tolerance for extreme conditions. and as global temperatures continue to rise, even the most ardent defenders of the green revolution are now realizing how essential these traditional varieties are for the future of agriculture. >> reporter: that green revolution began thousands of miles away, in the philippines, at the international rice research institute. now scientists here are trying to breed new seeds that will withstand the stresses of climate change. the institute has stored tens of thousands of the worlds
traditional rice varieties in its frozen seed vaults as a genetic pallette for future seeds. but many of these seeds were collected in the 1960s. and after being stored for so long they may no longer be viable for breeding. that means debal deb's grassroots seed farm back in india may be one of the most valuable genetic resources left. still, scientists say simply reintroducing old varieties isn't going to feed the world; they just don't produce enough. they're working to build new varieties using the genetic information embedded in the traditional seeds. m.s. swaminathan is considered the father of india's green revolution. >> there is no other alternative in this country. land is going out of agriculture. in fact, the farms where i had demonstration 40 years ago they all disappeared. they have become big malls. they have become big shops and so on and hotels. so land is a shrinking resource. we have to produce more and more from less and less land, less and less water.
that means we need the green revolution approach, productivity improvement approach. the international rice research institute has successfully bred some climate resilient traits from the traditional varieties into a single high yielding seed. the new plants are designed to tolerate limited amounts of drought and flooding during the same growing season. so far the institute has distributed them to more than four million farmers. in even the remotest parts of india the green revolution caused many farmers to abandon their traditional seeds for the modern, high yielding varieties promoted by the government. but for those who didn't the benefits of these locally adapted seeds are becoming more and more pronounced. 64-year-old farmer loknath nauri, grows 30 different traditional varieties of rice, millet, corn, squash and lentils on his two acre plot in eastern india. his song is a celebration of the
diversity of traditional seeds and the happiness it brings to his family and his land. these seeds, created over thousands of years, don't just have the genes to withstand droughts and floods. they're also adapted to local soils and pests, eliminating the need for costly nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides. some are so resilient they sprout even in the dry months. >> ( translated ): look at this pearl millet. we cut it last december. there hasn't been any rain for five months. and it's sending up new shoots. this would never happen with a high yielding variety. once the rains come we don't even have to reseed it. it just grows back by itself for two to three years. >> reporter: nauri says he tried the new rice seeds but his harvest didn't even come close to the traditional varieties. >> ( translated ): i tried planting that high yielding rice one year. but i didn't have money to pay for the chemical fertilizers.
and without them, it wouldn't grow. so i went back to the traditional varieties. >> reporter: the search continues for ways to feed nine billion people on a climate- changed planet. the new super seeds scientists are developing could transform agriculture in the years to come. but for now many of the world's poorest farmers are turning to the seeds that sustained their ancestors as a sort of genetic insurance policy against an unpredictable future. >> woodruff: we turn to the supreme court's decision on genes and its impact for patients and medical research. the justices unanimously ruled today that a company cannot patent an isolated human gene. the case involved myriad genetics, a company that holds patents on genes correlated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, known as b.r.c.a.-1 and b.r.c.a.-2.
myriad sells the genetic tests for those cancers. in the majority opinion, justice clarence thomas wrote: "myriad found the location of the b.r.c.a.-1 and b.r.c.a.-2 genes. but that discovery, by itself, does not render the b.r.c.a. genes patent eligible." but the justices also found that firms can patent synthetically created genetic material known as c-d.n.a. for a look at the implications, we are joined by todd dickinson. he's the executive director of the american intellectual property law association. and sandra park, an attorney with the women's rights project at the a.c.l.u. their team argued the case against myriad genetics. s welcome to you both. and, sandra park, i want to start with you. it was your side that was arguing against myriad being able to have control or keep this patent. how do you read the justices' ruling? >> well, we were very pleased
with the ruling. our fundamental argument all along has been human genes cannot be patented, and the problem with these patent is they gave myriad the exclusive right to control what testing was done on these genes and even what research could be done on these genes. so the court's ruling today lifted that barrier to scientific research, to medical innovations, and that was what our plaintiffs, who are geneticists, pathologists, as well as patients who need better access to this type of testing, that was our goal and that is what we got from the supreme court today. >> woodruff: todd dickinson, your organization filed a brief supporting the company myriad. how do you read the results? >> our brief didn't support either side in this. we were trying, to as we often do, trying to get the law right based on the history-- and the public policy in this area. i think what justice thomas is saying is basically that naturally occurring discoveries and his framing of it are not
patentable and manmade inventions are. he drew a line in this particular case that highlights thahighlightsthat. >> woodruff: what what do you think that will mean for myriad genetics and what it's been able to do? >> well, short term it probably won't have much of an impact. these patents expire the year after next which is kind of an interesting thing but there are other patents myriad holds on oncdna, the methods to do the diagnostic testing. i would guess for the time being the myriad is still the best test you can get and most people will still want to go there. insurance covers their test for example in many, many cases. >> woodruff: you're saying it won't have much of an impact. sandra park, you're saying this is good news for patients, geneticists. how am i hearing this differently? >> well, i think the problem has been that myriad has used their patents to have a monopoly on genetic testing, and that has stopped other laboratories, even those who want to offer testing using other methods, or even
including the brca genes with other greens connected to breast and ovarian cancer risks to provide a more comprehensive picture of a patient's risk. and the ruling today aplows for all of that. it allows for that competition. and i think we've already heard, at least two or three laboratories, announcing that they plan to offer genetic testing that includes the brca genes within this year. >> woodruff: if that's the case, todd dickinson, why isn't it a setback for the company? just to come back to your argument, and what she just said, that it means that myriad now has competition, that other companies will be able to do this. >> that's right, and i think we have to expwait see how the competition plays out, whether others are able to offer a comparable test. myriad has membership, many years of data, for example, to help normalize test. i think the bigger qi question frankly, the long-term implications and whether or not the opinion puts at risk thousands of other patents throughout and all other
contexts in biotechnology. we have plenty of industry to which these patents could be key in terms of encouraging innovation, encouraging investment in the innovation to bring them to market, from biofuel to enzymes for clean water, extractive technologies for finding new antibiotics. it raiseaise lot of questions. >> woodruff: what are you saying it means for them? >> i think the question is will this opinion be expanded to cover all those other patents, which may be at risk at this point. we've issued patents for 30 years in this area. there are thousands and thousands out there and it creates some uncertainty. >> woodruff: before we broaden it took, sandra park, i want to come back to you. we talked with a number of experts in the field, one in particular who was on your side of this argument, arguing that myriad should not be able to patent the gene, and one of them said, in essence, agreeing with part of the argument mr. dickinson is making and i just want to trod you what they
said. they said myriad still has the proprietary database, which means even if somebody else-- some other company invent a competing test, they're going to have to essentially deal with myriad's monopoly on information to interpret what those tests mean. >> well, we agree that is a problem. and the pat ents on the genes allowed myriad to develop that proprietary database, and that's why it's so important that the court's ruling today invalidate these kinds of patents on human genes so we don't have the situation in the future with other genes where one company is able to amass that kind of information. but i think what we'll see going forward is that because there will be competition, because other laboratories will be offering this testing, that kind of information will be much more freely shared, and myriad's hold on that information won't be able to last the way that they've tried to do so by using the pat ents to have the
monopoly on the testing itself. >> well, that actually brings up another point, and perhaps another concern. the societal bargain that's based on the patent system, is if you disclose your invention complete we will give you the proprietary right for a period of time. what happens if you don't have the proprietary rights is it drives it underground. it causes researchers to keep it secret, not to do so much collaborative research. that could be a downside we haven't seen yet. >> woodruff: i want to come back to the essence here, sandra park, and that is what does this mean for women who may have the-- one of the brca genes for either breast or ovarian cancer, and what are their prospects for getting the kind of help they need, the kind of treatment that they need? what does this decision mean with regard to them? >> well, they will have better access to genetic testing of these genes.
and in fact it will may be that companies will be offering the testing not only of the brca genes but the many other genes related to breast and ovarian cancer. and that's really important. when aie test, she doesn't necessarily care only about whether she has a mutation or the brca1 or 2 gene. she wantshe wants to understandr comprehensive genetic risk for these diseases, so laboratories will be able to offer that test chicago up to now they have not done because of the myriad pat ents. there will also be more second opinion testing, and that has been an important issue for many patients. and we also think cost will be driven down because of marketplace pressures. >> woodruff: very quickly, todd dickinson, how do you see the effect on those women we're talking about? >> i think many of those effects might, indeed, occur but that's not really a function of the patent system. the basic question is not whether myriad deserved the patent or not. the question is whether it was
patent eligible. i think many people would believe this is a very deserving expawz myriad is providing a very valuable service and as we move forward from here others will be able to take advantage of that. >> woodruff: we are going to leave it there. todd dickinson, and sandra park. thank you. >> brown: now, a two-part look at issues affecting gays and lesbians, ahead of much- anticipated supreme court decisions coming soon on major cases involving same-sex marriage. ray suarez begins our coverage. >> suarez: a new survey provides one of the largest and most complex portraits of what life is like today for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender americans. the sweeping survey conducted by the pew research center-spanned topics including political views, social stigmas and the difficulties of coming out. it finds growing acceptance in the u.s. of the l.g.b.t. community: 92% of those surveyed said they agreed with that. yet 53% say there is still
discrimination. the survey was done just weeks before the supreme court decision and was released during pride month. today, president obama spoke at the white house for an l.g.b.t. pride month celebration. >> from minnesota to maryland, from the united states senate to the n.b.a., it's clear we're reaching a turning point. ( applause ) we have-- we've become not just more accepting. we've become more loving as a country and as a possible. heart and miebdz change with time. laws do, too. change like that isn't something that starts here in washington, but it's something that has the power that washington has a great deal of difficulty resisting over time. >> suarez: for more we turn to paul taylor, executive vice president of the pew research center and co-author of the
l.g.b.t. survey. and gary gates, distinguished scholar at the williams center at u.c.l.a. and co-author of "the gay and lesbian atlas." paul taylor, this is a survey involving a community that's often the object of research but rarely the subject of research. did the l.g.b.t. americans that you spoke to agree with what we just heard the president saying about change being under way? >> yes. we had-- as you said, 93% saying society is more accepting now than it was 10 years ago. and then we said about what 10 years from now, and another 92%, 93% said it will be more accepting. we take a lot of surveys. we rarely see numbers in the 90s. you ask people, "does your mother love you is there? maybe you'll get in the 90s. this is a near universally held belief. it's an understanding that there has been an extraordinary amount of change in societal attitudes. so that is the good news story.
i said earlier today, the l.g.b.t. population is living in the best of times but they are not easy times, and there is another side to the story, and we asked a lot of questions about the experiences they have had, the perceptions of discrimination and stigma, and they're pretty powerful. and you had a couple of examples of that. one of the ones that struck me is even in these more accepting times, in our survey population, we talked about 1200 people in this community, only slightly over half said they had told their mother of their sexual orientation, and only about 4 in 10 said they had told their farther. so that is an illustration of a community, they're not yet able or willing or feel comfortable sharing that with the people they're closest to. >> suarez: that idea that things are better but... comes through in data point after data
point. you ask if people have been subject to slurs or jokes. say. le majority said yes, at some time they had been subject to slurs or jokes. and then you asked has any of this happened in the past year. and it was about one out of six of l.g.b.t. people. have they been threatened or physically attacked? a much smaller number. so that the kind of resentments that we're talking about in society rarely take a physical forge but even among that number, 26% at this time in theirs lives. only 4% in the last year or so. gary gates, what does that tell you about the state of l.g.b.t. america? >> well, i think, as paul said, i think it says that l.g.b.t. americans are very clear that thiks have gotten much better. but they're not there yet. i think many of them, as paul mentioned, haven't come out to their parents. still many experience a variety
of discrimination, a variety of types of discrimination, including in their churches, in their families, with their friends. and i think that's the life-- one of the huge contributions of this survey is focusing on that kind of day-to-day existence of l.g.b.t. americans in this time of rapid change. >> suarez: gary, one finding that i found very interesting was the self-reporting among this population that they were much more sympathetic to other people in society who they thought also faced various kinds of discrimination. >> right. >> suarez: does that explain why gay americans are so prominent as activists in other people's fights? >> well, i think so. i mean, i think-- there's no question that the experience of being stigmatized allows people to understand what that's like, and then to empathize or relate
to other people who have experienced stigma. and i think that is one of the reasons you see so many l.g.b.t. people involved in a variety of activist causes that are not necessarily l.g.b.t. specific. >> suarez: paul taylor of course you couldn't have done this surway vey without asking about marriage and an interesting piece of data emerged there. near universal support of legalization of marriage for gay people, 93%. yet, 4 out of 10 say the marriage debate has drawn too much attention from other issues that gay people face. like what? >> like employment rights. like aid, hiv programs. like adoption rights. this is a community that has lots of issues for political constitutional legal reasons, we all understand that the same-sex marriage issue has come-- become front and center. and literally and figuratively it has become the symbolic
issue. and it obviously has very real importance as well. a majority say yes-- 60% say it's a good thing that it is the centerpiece issue, even at the expense of the other issues we care about, but a significant minority says, wait a minute, there are a lot of other things on the table. >> suarez: so, gary, when gay people talk about their lives and think about their lives, even though they see marriage as sort of drowning out the other issues, is it a gateway issue that once you clear this threshold, some of those other things become easier. >> well, i think in fact many l.g.b.t. people believe that's the case. but as paul pointed out, i think there is a bit of a challenge here from a size sizable group of l.g.b.t. people who really see, for instance, workplace discrimination as something they experience at relatively high levels, and that they believe that there should be laws that protect them from that kind of discrimination. and, you know, i think these data challenge to us think through all of those issues.
>> suarez: leaning forward, did you ask people-- i guess you asked people, also, to self-report about questions you didn't ask and got, in your own words, some very touching responses. >> we conducted this survey online, which we think was methodologically wise because it's a more anonymous way of doing surveys, and part issue here is are you willing to come out in-- to a survey taker? and that also gave us the ability to put little boxes, as people were filling out their forms on their computer, and we asked them for their comment. >> suarez: any one jump out at you? >> no, but 1,000 jumped out at me. i used to be a newspaper reporter and i kind of know a good quote. there are 1,000 good quotes. these sisters rivetting because the life these folks have led at all ages are fascinating, and the lives of the middle aged and older survey respondents who sort of say with regret, "i wish i had come out earlier."
we track in all of their lives when they came out and how it was, some good, some bad, all fascinating. >> suarez: paul taylor, gary gates, gentlemen thank you both. >> woodruff: one of the highly anticipated gay marriage cases is the focus of our next story. the supreme court is deciding whether california's 2008 ballot measure banning same-sex couples from wedding is constitutional. "newshour" correspondent spencer michels previews the proposition 8 case, and how the golden state is preparing for the ruling. >> i, state your name, do solemnly swear... >> reporter: volunteer city employees in san francisco got trained this week on how to issue marriage licenses and perform ceremonies. the city is preparing for a possible rush of same sex marriages if the supreme court
allows them to start up again in california. >> we want to be ready immediately so people can celebrate and get married as soon as possible. >> reporter: there must be some people in san francisco who don't think this is a great idea. >> you know, we're not hearing from them. >> reporter: that training session took place in san francisco's city hall, where this whole controversy came to the fore almost a decade ago. that was when then-mayor gavin newsom decreed that san francisco would begin performing same sex marriages, despite a state ban on the practice. 4,000 couples got licenses and got married to the dismay of conservative groups like the campaign for children and families. >> state law is very clear. marriage is only for a man and a woman. the mayor of san francisco is violating state law. >> reporter: within a month, the state supreme court halted those weddings and both sides of the debate took to the streets for a long fight.
eventually, the state supreme court decided such weddings were legal, and another 18,000 couples were wed, until proposition 8, passed by the voters in 2008, banned same sex marriage. prop 8 was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge who asserted it was discriminatory, but the supreme court now must rule on that issue. and interested parties throughout california are waiting with bated breath. >> we certainly hope that the court will uphold the right of voters of california to define what marriage is. >> reporter: william may is president of catholics for the common good and was actively involved in the campaign to pass prop 8. >> marriage between a man and a women forms the only civil institution that is geared towards uniting kids with their moms and dads. today we have too high incidents of single parenting, which is the root cause of poverty. >> reporter: but former san
francisco mayor gavin newsom, now the state's lieutenant governor, doesn't see it that way at all. he's still intensely interested in pursuing the revolution he helped to start. >> i didn't know what we were entering into. i felt like we needed to do something assertive, and we started with one couple, phyllis lyon and del martin. it became this remarkable expression of love and remarkable experience for all of us. >> reporter: ten states and the district of columbia have approved same sex marriage since prop. 8 passed. and national public opinion polls have indicated a shift towards more acceptance of those marriages. now, the high court is delving into the complex case and that may require a complex decision. vic amar teaches constitutional law at the university of california at davis. >> conceivably the court could rule large in favor of the plaintiffs, proclaim a national right under the 14th amendment to same sex marriage. but that would mean invalidating
laws of about 38 states, and so that's a difficult thing for a court of unelected justices to do. on the other hand, the court could reject the challenge to prop. 8 and say the federal constitution does not have anything to say about same sex marriage, and same sex marriage is a matter for each state to decide on its own. >> reporter: the court could also rule that since the state refused to defend prop. 8, the measures sponsors don't have standing to defend it. the court could approve same sex marriages for california, but not for all states. but should the court fail to approve at least some same sex marriages, newsom anticipates more activism. >> god forbid they do the wrong thing, and they just reject. i tell you what a backlash. you just wait if they go south. in many ways it will just unite people that may be quietly supportive on the sideline, that i think will say, "all right, wait a second. this is a civil rights struggle." >> reporter: the court battle itself has re-activated many in the gay and lesbian community.
in san francisco, thousands of demonstrators rallied the day the court heard the case. among them was andre sanchez, a 30-year-old one-time gay activist, and the partner of 31- year-old wes mcgaughey. together for almost seven years, they figure it's time to get married. their bitterness toward prop 8 convinced them to pull back from politics. but with the case pending, they are watching with personal interest. they intend to have a commitment ceremony, regardless of the justices' decision. >> i don't know if we're jumping the gun. we will do it with or without them. we would like to do it with them because we would like the same rights as anybody else. >> i would like to be equal to my parents. i would like wes to be equal to his parents, and its just something that we have to fight for constantly. >> reporter: sanchez, a latino catholic, says his family's attitudes toward gay marriage have mirrored the national
trend. >> my parents grew up very catholic, so i had a really tough time coming out as a young man. over six and a half years this evolution with my mom has been incredible, she went from someone i would tagline a bigot, she hated the thought of me and wes together and as she got to know wes. she really accepted him, so it's completely changed her views, her voting views, you know, it's just amazing. >> reporter: for lay catholic leader william may the battle against same sex marriages will continue, if the supreme court allows them to go forward. >> we just have to keep fighting, and its really a matter of social justice. >> reporter: the court is expected to release its decision before the end of the month. >> woodruff: online this month, we'll have live coverage of the supreme court's end-of-term decisions. on days justices issue opinions,
we'll carry scotusblog's reporting from inside the courtroom on our homepage. >> brown: finally tonight, the return of a popular mystery >> brown: finally tonight, the return of a popular mystery series. when last seen, ezeziel "easy" rawlins was driving over a cliff, apparently to his death. rawlins is the fictional private eye who in the course of a dozen books has become one of the best-known, longest-running characters in american literature. his latest adventure is told in the new novel, "little green". author walter mosley has written more than 40 books in many genres and received numerous honors. he joined us here earlier this week. welcome. >> it's good to be here. >> brown: the return of a dead man pup seem to kill off your famous hero and then brought him back to life. >> it was first person narrative. he wasn't dead. he went off the cliff and everything went black. i didn't say, "i divide."
i just said he went off the cliff. i stopped writing the books because i felt i was getting steal writing the character and i wanted to stop, and four, five years went by and i said could go back to that. i did depend intend to end the series, but here we are. >> brown: i see comparisonses to arthur conan doyle kills off sherlock holmes and brings him back again. it's hard to kill off a character like this. >> it is difficult. i'm not-- i know he came back and wrote it again. i don't know if it was because he didn't have money or the people were just bothering him too much. y really want to write about "easy" so. >> brown: for those who don't know the "easy rawlins" books, they're set in a very particular place-- los angeles-- and particularly in the watts area, in a time, post-world war ii to the 40s and this one up to the 60s. is all of that by accident or did you just find a character
and you wanted to stick with him or did you want to explore a time and & place? >> there were a couple of things. definitely, that's where i'm from. i'm born in '52 in los angeles. my family came in, in 1945-46, mother and father from different places. and in order to put people inside the culture, you have to be inside the literature. and the black population of los angeles just-- just didn't have the literature, really, not much of one, anyway. so i decided i'd write these books so i could write about los angeles, i could write about postwar los angeles. >> brown: you had that in mind, there was a vacuum of particularly black literature. >> yes. >> brown: one of the running jokes in the book-- although it's a serious line-- is often when somebody meets easy rawlins for the first time and they find out what he does and they say, "i never met a black prived eye
before." and he says, it's a rare breed. >> he's a new character for this world, and-- and he's somebody who goes into places where other people can't go, being a black man because nobody thinks there's a black detective. he says they don't see me coming. they don't know when i'm there. and they don't know i've left. that's the way his life is. and it makes him an almost-perfect detective. >> brown: and that allows you to look at various strains of american culture, right? in this case, the 60s, post-watts riots is the setting. >> and the beginning of the hippie movement which is a whole other surprising event in california at this time. you know, if you're in california in 1964, it's one los angeles, and if you're there in 1968, there are all these hippies everywhere. where did they come from fr? how did they have time to grow that hair. it's pretty amazing. i'm really enjoying it because--
you know, so many stories have been told about l.a., but these stories almost everyone is a new story because of the point of view, not because it's a-- some secret that's being held. >> brown: because of the new time as well. >> and everybody's like, you know, experiencing a different kind of world. and it's changing so quickly. >> brown: as i said, you write in many styles and genres and the "easy" rawlins books are often-- they're usually described as crime fiction, mysteries. do you think of them that way. or do yo you even think about different genres when you're work jieg think about genre somewhat. once i'm? the genre, i like to be true to it. i i don't want to be one of the writers who says, i'm not really a mystery writer." when i write a mystery, it's a mystery. when i write a literary novel-- >> brown: what is being true to a mystery. >> there's a crime that's been committed that exists on a legal level oa social level, and on a
moral level dispp if you're really, really good at it on a philosophical level. and there has to be an answer, not necessarily a solution, but an answer to that crime. who did it? why did they do it? should you turn them in? a whole series of questions, and that's what mysteries do. >> brown: but if you're really good at it, you're saying a level that's beyond who the dun it. >> if you're really good at it, it makes you think about the nature of the society. i think at the end of this book, easy has to make ray few choices. and i hopefully-- hopefully it will make you think about the chineses he has to make and why. and it goes a little beyond the mystery but stays right inside the crime. >> brown: and presumably, a good mystery has to be a good-- i mean, qualities of a novel are the qualities of a novel. >> good writing is good writing and bad writing it bad writing.
people say-- you'll say, this genre is better writing than this writing. how can that be? they're both in english. how can one be better than the other? a lot of people do think like that. my genre, when i'm writing crime fiction is one thing. but like science fiction, people completely eshoe. romance, that's terrible writing. but it's not necessarily. if you're a good writer, you write a good book. >> brown: i have talked with biographers who stay with one subject for decades. you have done that as well. is it still fulfilling? is it still fun. it's an interesting thing, the topic they stay with the most is black male heroes. >> brown: in all these different genres. >> because i'm one of the few people really ever in the history of literature in the west who writes about black male heros. there are a lot of protagonists
but i'm talking about heroes. i think it's really important because every culture has their heroes. it's just that black men, people are kind of afraid of them for various reasons, various guilts, various issues. i like to write about them and i don't think that's running out of fashion yet. >> brown: so will there be more? >> oh, yeah, i finished the next easy rawlins novel. my editor as i was coming here sent me an e-mail saying he accepted the new novel. this one is "little green." walter mosley, thank you so much. my conversation with walter mosley continues online where we ask some of your questions sent in ahead of time and you can also see him read from his new novel on our art beat page. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: white house officials announced there is firm evidence the syrian government used chemical weapons against rebels. they said president obama has decided to provide military support to the rebels, but they gave no details. and a major wildfire kept growing in colorado.
it's destroyed more than 360 homes and forced nearly 40,000 people to evacuate. >> brown: online, a retired economics professor gives her encore performance on the dancefloor. kwame holman has more. even though college professor mary huff stevenson is retired from her classroom at u-mass boston, she won't stop teaching. now she leads classes of older active adults as a zumba instructor. read her story on making sense. and after a visit to ottawa, political editor christina bellantoni reflects on differences between canadian and american politics. that's on the homepage all that and more is on our website newshour.pbs.org. jeff? >> brown: and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm jeffrey brown. >> woodruff: and i'm judy woodruff. we'll see you online and again here tomorrow evening with mark shields and david brooks, among others. thank you and good night. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> more than two years ago, the people of b.p. made a commitment to the gulf.
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